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Roughriders’ QB, play-caller promise to spark sputtering offence | CBC News

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback and offensive co-ordinator are both expecting to spark a sputtering offence this weekend in Halifax.

The Riders (3-3) will face perhaps their toughest test of the season, flying cross-country to take on the undefeated Toronto Argonauts in Halifax for the annual Touchdown Atlantic game. Kickoff is Saturday at 2 p.m. CST.

Last Saturday in Vancouver, the Riders managed just three Brett Lauther field goals, losing 19-9 to the Lions.

The Roughriders’ defence forced four turnovers against B.C. but the offence could not capitalize.

Mason Fine got his first start of the season and went 31 of 42 for 282 yards and two interceptions.

Fine said the team missed opportunities to score.

“Not scoring touchdowns — it’s literally just maybe one guy on every single play that maybe does not do their job or some small, minute detail that stops you from getting a touchdown or getting that one first down or maybe draws a penalty to not keep that drive going,” he said.

The team has to clean up its execution, Fine said, and his play-caller agrees.

“I was just disappointed that we didn’t come away with more points,” said offensive co-ordinator Kelly Jeffrey. “The defence played awesome. Special teams were great. We got all kinds of takeaways with our defence and we had good field position.”

“We need to be better and we will be. The guys are frankly pretty pissed off at the way things came down and we’re going to be better this week.”

Riders' offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey.
Riders’ offensive co-ordinator Kelly Jeffrey says the players are “pretty pissed off” at how Saturday’s game in B.C. turned out. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Jeffrey said he would not characterize the Roughriders offence as “conservative,” given the 41 pass attempts by Fine.

“We needed a little bit more help in the run game. I think that would have made a huge difference in some of those short-yardage plays. He had one interception that was a wrong route by a receiver that kind of duped him into throwing the wrong ball.”

The Riders managed just 16 yards along the ground on 14 attempts for a 1.1-yard average.

Jeffrey said the team was working with a new offensive line combination and lost its ability to play five receiver sets when Mitch Picton was lost to injury.

“It wasn’t a conservative game plan or play-calling. Some of the circumstances dictated it and with a new quarterback, you always want to be a little bit cautious going in. You want to get him some completions to get his feet wet.”

LISTEN | Roughriders talk Trevor Harris injury, QB situation

The Afternoon Edition – Sask5:31Roughriders talk Trevor Harris injury, QB situation

Jeremy O’Day is general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He talked to reporters about the status of Trevor Harris and what the team plans to do with its quarterbacks moving forward.

Jeffrey said he did not limit the playbook for Fine, who is in his third year with the team.

“I can put together a much better game plan in terms of play-calling. I probably got a little bit too shot-happy down in the red zone and we can take some shorter passes and run the ball a little bit more to get touchdowns instead of coming away with field goals.”

Jeffrey said taking more “shots” down the field is a goal.

“I love shots down the field. That’s my jam. But you still gotta protect it. You still gotta make sure you are running the ball well to do it. If you can’t run the ball well, no one’s really gonna buy when you do some heavy play-action stuff.”

Lack of TDs over three weeks

Third-year quarterback Mason Fine has played in just over four quarters during the past three games. Much of the Riders’ lack of scoring came with starting quarterback Trevor Harris under centre and against the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Elks who are a combined 2-11. All three Roughrider wins have come against those two clubs.

In the past three weeks, the Riders have managed just three offensive touchdowns during 12 quarters of football. All three have come late in the fourth quarter. By comparison, Roughriders return specialist Mario Alford had two punt return touchdowns against Calgary in Week 6. Here’s how the Riders scored their three offensive touchdowns:

  • In Week 5, Trevor Harris TD pass to Mitch Picton with 1:06 left.
  • In Week 6, Mason Fine TD pass to Jamal Morrow with under three minutes to go.
  • Fine to Tevin Jones for a 69-yard TD with 0:42 left on 3rd and 24.

Head coach Craig Dickenson said he does not think one thing is causing the lack of scoring punch but pointed to injuries as playing a role.

“I don’t know if there’s one thing or another. [B.C.] is a good defence. We still haven’t gotten into, in my opinion, a real good rhythm because we’re still lacking a little bit of continuity.”

“Hopefully with Jake [Wieneke] back and with Peter [Godber] back, we’re hoping we can get the same crew out there a couple of weeks in a row.”

Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver fails to make a catch in a match against the B,C Lions
Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Tevin Jones (14) dives but fails to make the reception late in Saturday’s game. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Dickenson did not have an update on Roughriders who did not practise on Tuesday. Receivers Picton, Jones and Kendall Watson did not participate but were not ruled out for the upcoming game.

Fine should have his centre Godber, and two big targets back in the lineup. Wieneke is returning after a knee injury caused him to miss three games. Canadian slotback Brayden Lenius has not yet played this season and could be headed to Halifax.

“They’re great people and they love the game and they’re good energy dudes. It’s good to have both Brayden and Jake back. And their legs were a little tired today. We’ll get them back and hopefully, they both play on game day,” Dickenson said.

Receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker has been taken off the six-game injured list but Dickenson said he is not expected back until the Labour Day Classic against Winnipeg.

The Riders brought in a CFL veteran to shore up their defence — 28-year-old Trumaine Washington was signed today.

“We feel like our secondary is a little thin with Rolan [Milligan] going down and we wanted a guy who’s got CFL experience and he’s a real grinder and he’s physical. He’s not a real tall guy but he competes very hard and Trumaine is going to help us at some point this year.”

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